Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wamboldtopia Sketch Crawl

Today the journal group that I'm in had its first sketch crawl.  We had heard about a private garden called Wamboldtopia ( near BookWorks ( that had been under growth and change for ten years, the masterwork of Damaris and Ricki Pierce.  The day was sunny and warm, and the garden is actually located near a fairly busy section of town;  but as soon as we passed under the stone archway entrance, we felt like we were in a cool, shady, hidden part of Italy, Bomarzo with its ancient sculpture garden, or an undeveloped and rarely -visited section of a forgotten hill town.

I like to notice what my eye is drawn to, and I kept finding myself parked in front of the several old-tombstone-like skull pieces that were made by Damaris and embedded in stone columns or walls made by Ricki. 

For my final drawing I did the tower (which is really a clever disguise of a chain-link fence at the property line-- pieces of insulation foam wrapped in hardware cloth covered with stucco with a real bell included and the fence top made to look like the top of a stone wall) and a poppy seed head, which reminded me of the skull pieces;  so I concocted my own poppy-head skull exploding its seeds. 

While at the garden I did pen sketches only and made color notes.  Later this evening I painted with watercolor and gouache and incorporated a few rubber stamps that I had on hand from another project.  The paper in this sketchbook is handmade from willow bast and abaca.


  1. Hello Gwen, thank you for sharing. This wonderful garden reminds me of a place in Tucson called Valley of the Moon. I love your blog and your books, they have inspired me to really expand my natural history journals, using handmade archival papers and binding them into lovely books (I have 20 years of nature journals). I wonder if you might share where you get your handmade paper (above you reference willow bast and abaca). I have only found a few sources online. Thank you!

  2. Hi Roseann! Actually, I made the willow and abaca paper myself at the paper studio at Asheville BookWorks. I have around 60 large (18 x 23") sheets and would be willing to sell you a few sheets. Email me at if you're interested.

  3. Roseann-- another thing that might help you-- I have bought beautiful handmade papers from Twinrocker Mill in Indiana. Also, New York Central Art Supplies carries handmade paper from many small mills around the world. You pretty much have to go there to see the samples, but if you know what you want you can telephone them and order that way.

  4. Gwen,
    I love the way you draw and especially like the sketches of the statue in the garden. I also like your choice of journal paper and the color. I love drawings on brown paper, it is more encouraging then making a mark on a stark page of white paper. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Dear Gwen,
    As usual, your spreads are gorgeous!
    I was wondering how you prevent the paint to bleed through your handmade paper... Isn't the backside of the pages affected with the bleeded color?

  6. Thanks Barbara and Nathalie! Nathalie- to stop bleeding through I add ketene dimer sizing to the vat of pulp before forming the sheets of paper. Sizing stops the fibers from attracting water. (When you beat pulp the bruising causes the fibers to attract water, which is necessary for bonds to form.) You can either add internal sizing as I did or surface sizing after the sheets are formed and dry.

  7. I love how you lay your pages out. Very nice.

  8. Love the poppy head--sort of spooky and appealing in equal measure.